A Catastrophic Injury & New Life With a Prosthetic Leg
Meet a remarkable young lady. This 6 month old baby horse (filly) wouldn't be alive today without the intervention of the most advanced surgery & treatments for horses - amputation of her lower limb & custom prosthetic.
At 3 months old, she was found wrapped in barbed wire in a pasture, her hoof had been ripped completely off her body. Her family was devastated and brought her to Yellowstone Equine in Cody, Wyoming. Together, Dr. Ted Vlahos and the family made a treatment plan to attempt to grow the hoof back, but infection set into the bone.
On a routine visit to our Sanctuary for Willow's upcoming surgery, Dr. Vlahos got the call from his team that this baby would need to be euthanized. Our team couldn't bear the idea, knowing how well equipped our staff is, of not giving this horse a shot at a long happy life here at the Sanctuary. The surgery & aftercare is expensive. The prosthetic requires daily changes. But we are uniquely outfitted for challenging care - and we had to offer to help.
Leading Prosthetic Equine Surgeon
Dr. Vlahos, from Wyoming's Yellowstone Equine Hospital, is one of the country's foremost sought after surgeons for equines. He has performed over 100 successful amputations with his longest-term patients living well into their teens and twenties as pasture horses or breeding horses. His work has been covered by the Paulick Report, with the most famous of his cases being a quarter horse stallion named Triple Vodka. You can read more about his advancements in prosthetics here in a recent interview with Thoroughbred Racing Daily News. Like Dr. Vlahos' other cases, this horse's surgery included an aggressive neurectomy, which removes all feeling from the stump - so she walks pain free.
The video below was taken just days after surgery, with no pain medication. It's her first time seeing snow, and she's already used to her temporary prosthetic.
Her New Prosthetic Leg is Top of the Line
Her leg was custom built for her by Comfort Prosthetics in Mount Clemens, Michigan, designed with the same advanced materials used by human amputees - including a stainless steel footplate and titanium pylons. We purchased 2 custom prosthetics for her, and we have been trained by Dr. Vlahos on daily changes, which are speedy and easy. Even though she is eager to run to the pasture with the other horses - she waits patiently for the few minutes that we remove her gel liner, wash her leg and replace her prosthetic.
Choosing Her Name
When this baby arrived, she came with the name Patience. She was completely unhandled by humans, and over a few weeks recovering at Yellowstone Equine Hospital, she'd learned to be haltered, walked, and to stand for her prosthetic changes and more. By the time she arrived, she'd mastered "patience" -- now at our FarmHouse Fresh Sanctuary, she was afraid of everything she'd never seen or heard before - like garbage cans being rolled out to the driveway, trucks pulling up, and hay carts. She's friendly, spirited and wide-eyed. She approaches all the animals immediately and whinnies to them if there's no one near. She's spunky and sweet - plays with our sheep and is particularly fond of Stitch, our 3-legged goat. We knew she needed a more suitable name, so we gave her Piper!
We Had So Many Questions!
We peppered Dr. Vlahos with questions - before and after the surgery. So we're listing some of them here.
We heard amputations are rarely successful - is it true that horses can spend months laying in a stall recovering, and die of their wounds anyway?
With 35 years of experience and 100+ surgeries of this type, Dr. Vlahos has never had a horse die of a surgical infection. His patients are standing up right away after surgery, and in fact are fitted with a temporary prosthetic immediately, before transport to the recovery room. Blood flow is criticial. And surprisingly, most of his patients no longer need pain medications after 48 hours of surgery.
Can she run, jump, play, and be a normal horse?
Yes she can and will. She should partake in all normal horse activities, and shouldn't be treated any differently than another growing filly, learning manners and life lessons. Dr. Vlahos has performed amputations on many horses in the Kingdom of Bhutan where euthanasia is not allowed. There, injured horses often have laminitis in the "good leg." He's found their laminitis resolves itself in the "good leg" after the injured limb is amputated and fitted with a prosthetic that allows for equal balance in weight.
How many of us are needed to change her prosthetic, and how often do we need to change her?
She stands very well already. Typically 3-4 team members help change her prosthetic. One of us removes the prosthetic and gel liner, one receives them and passes cloths and baby wipes. Someone holds her reins, and often a fourth person helps shampoo if we're cleaning her leg. The process takes 5 minutes. In the summer months, she might get sweaty and need her prosthetic changed several times a day. But in cooler months, once a day or every other day is expected.
What do we look for - for signs of trouble?
Just like humans, we need to check her skin for any signs of rub sores. She's very active - running, grazing with the other animals. Upon her arrival, she had developed a small rub sore from traveling (at the top of the prosthetic), and we used Prontosan gel applied to a foam pad until it healed.
How do we adjust her leg as she grows?
For the most part, we will be extending the height of the titanium pylon as she gets taller. She might need a new prosthetic every few years until she's grown. So far, we have had her prosthetic adjusted twice - adding more cushion and bringing down its height slightly to be more comfortable. Our farriers have been trained on helping adjust the pylon and changing the steel footing.
This Sweet Baby is Thriving Because of You!
By just loving the products you use, you are funding these lifesaving opportunities for animals who through no fault of their own, end up in circumstances where they need the help of humans. We're honored to stretch your skincare dollars so we can all be part of the rescue!